Rooted in Rights welcomes articles by guest authors from across the globe to enhance understanding about the rights of people with disabilities. This piece about inclusive education in India is contributed by Dr. Anindita Chatterjee, Clinical Psychologist, and Director of the Julian Day New Mission, a private school, located in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
10% of the world’s population lives with a disability, and 80% of these people with disabilities live in developing countries. The services available for people with disabilities differ widely between developed and developing countries. One of these services is education. The international community, as per the United Nations Convention on People with Disabilities, is becoming increasingly aware of the different models of special education. The three basic models include segregated, integrated and inclusive special education, have been differentiated between by international and governmental agencies. Overwhelming support is being shown by all segments from human rights activists, nonprofit organisations, social welfare departments, governmental organizations, governments and international agencies, all in favour of the right to education in the form of inclusive education as the most beneficial type of education for people who are differently able.
After independence in 1947, the Government of India created several policies in terms of special education. Although the Government of India has attempted to create policies that are inclusive for people with disabilities, their implementation efforts have not resulted in an inclusive system of education, nor have they reached their goal of “education for all” across the country. The Government of India needs to bridge the gaps in their education system to build a strong system of inclusive education in India.
It is important to note that within government documents and scholarly publications in India, the three different terms-segregation, integration and inclusion-are often used interchangeably. This could stem from a variety of reasons, although a lack of education, lack of skilled persons, and lack of awareness on the original meanings connected to the words seems to be the most logical explanation.
Policy in India has always leaned towards inclusion. From the constitution to the Kothari Commission in the early days of the republic, to the 2005 Action Plan for Children and Youth with Disabilities and the 2006 National Policy for People with Disabilities recently, the Indian government tends to write inclusive policies on education. However, these policies often are not perfectly inclusive. Many of them tend to discriminate against people with “severe” disabilities, or people with intellectual disabilities.
Statistics on disability in India vary widely, and accuracy of statistics is always questionable since still many families do not reveal the truth if they have any children with disabilities in the family. They feel segregated from the mainstream society. However, almost all of the statistics available point to the gaps in the education system, the marginalization of children with disabilities, and the need of the Government of India to step up their efforts to reach their goal of “right to education.” There is always controversy in terms of mainstream versus special schooling. Still, at present, the policies governing the education system are inclusive. At present, the problem is with implementation of the said policy and moreover educating the mainstream teachers who need to change the attitude.
Curriculum is another area that needs a makeover. There is no curriculum for children with special needs to help them remain in the mainstream education. This creates a segregation between people with and without disabilities.
Another area that needs to be explored is testing. India has extremely rigid assessments and examinations, which stems from their dependence on a British-style education system. Although some alternative mediums of testing are available to accommodate students with disabilities, adaptations of tools, medium and methodology of assessment are all grey areas.
The need of the hour is to end the differences between words like special education, regular education, and inclusive education.
The most recent development is that an important Indian board, the Central Board of Secondary Education, has decided to set up an Inclusion panel for children with special needs. It says that the committee shall act as facilitator for promoting inclusive education at school and in neighbourhoods. The committee shall also take steps to raise public awareness on the importance of equality, overcoming discrimination and prohibit any kind harassment and victimization of any child with special needs in school.
This is the recent development in Special Education Needs programme which has given a new hope to parents of such children and the activists working in this field. The most important aspect is that not only the education but social inclusion is also considered for holistic development of an individual who is differently able.